Our annual variation notices will land with customers between 16 February and the start of March.
With the Cost-of-Living crisis and inflation at over 10% affecting everyone this year’s process has been one of the most difficult we’ve ever experienced.
The huge rise in inflation means our costs – in particular for repairs and maintenance – have increased significantly. We know it also means your household costs – on everything from food to energy – have increased too.
So, when setting rent and accommodation charge levels, we had a lot to consider.
Part one – Setting rents
It’s important to say first that we recognise that any cost increase presents an additional financial challenge at an unwelcome time.
It’s also important to say that we recognise customers want to see us deliver a good and improved level of service – all our customer feedback tells us so.
Finally, it’s also important to be clear that is not possible for us to deliver an improved – or even maintain our existing level of service – without at least coming close to maintain a similar level of spending on the services we provide.
So, we have to levy an increase or we could risk compromising on the quality and safety of the homes we provide and services we offer.
The Government recognised that challenge, and also the challenge customers face with meeting financial challenges, and so has allowed us to increase rents but has set limitations on the increases we and all other social housing providers can make.
So, in simple terms, when setting rents we’ve followed the Government and National Housing Federation’s guidance on rent increases.
For some customers, we’ve gone one step further than that, capping increases in recognition of specific cost challenges for customers.
So, what rent increase can you expect to see?
- Most customers – In most years we increase rents broadly in line with inflation to ensure we can maintain our services at a consistent level. However, for most customers, the Government has capped increases this year at 7% – more than 3% below inflation – so that is the level we will apply. This applies to social housing customers, shared ownership customers, older people’s housing and some other small customer groups.
- Supported housing, market rent and PFI scheme customers – For these customers, the Government did not cap rent increases, allowing social landlords to increase rents in line with inflation (currently 10.1%) plus one per cent (so effectively an 11.1% maximum increase). In most cases, that is the level of increase we have applied. With most supported housing customers in receipt of Housing Benefit, that increase will be covered with the Government confirming Housing Benefit will increase accordingly.
All rent and service charge increases are calculated using a Local Affordability Limit which is based on a maximum of 30% of net income of typical low-income households in each locality. So, that may mean that, if you live in an area with typically low household incomes, your rent increase may be limited below the levels stated above.
Affordability and how to get support
In coming to our decisions, our Board has tried to balance the needs of customers in maintaining services with affordability.
If you struggle with, or expect to struggle with affordability, it’s vital you talk to us. We’ve made £500K available through our Helping Hand Fund which is designed to help customers experiencing financial or other challenges. Visit www.riverside.org.uk/letstalk to get help and find out more or call our dedicated support team on 0800 529 8789.
Part two – Setting service charges
Service charges cover the cost of any extra services we provide in the area you live. The cost is shared between everyone who receives these services. That includes things like gardening, CCTV and warden services.
We’re seeing cost increases across the board on all new and existing contracts and, inevitably, this has an impact on service charges.
So, what service charge increase can you expect to see?
Changes to your service charge will vary depending on the services you receive.
We may have already written to you directly over the course of the year to consult you when we enter into a new contract with a supplier. These letters are known as Section 20 notices.
Where we have done so, we will have confirmed a new cost estimate.
In some exceptional circumstances, we have placed a cap on the increase to charges that will reduce the financial impact, but please refer to your notice for details.
- For help with rent payment or support with employment, training, benefits or energy costs, visit www.riverside.org.uk/letstalk
- For information on payment methods, visit www.riverside.org.uk/rent
- For more information on rent setting, visit www.riverside.org.uk/rentreview
- For more information on service charges, visit www.riverside.org.uk/servicecharges